On Wednesday, Pope Francis departs on a trip to Africa where he will visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, countries that have anti-gay laws in place and where gays face violence every day. Gay Africans are hoping that the Pope will bring their communities and their leaders a message of tolerance and acceptance, even if he may not bless homosexuality.
Pope Francis has been quite open-minded for a Pope as far as LGBT issues are concerned. Homosexuals all over the world rejoiced when he said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”
However, the LGBT community could be disappointed with his visit this week. He is likely to support Africa’s Catholic leadership and denounce the West for pressuring African societies to change their stances on sexuality. In a September speech, he criticized “ideological colonization,” or the “imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity.”
However, many LGBT activists are still holding out hope.
David Kuria, a gay rights advocate in Kenya says: “I hope the Pope would say, ‘Love everyone,’ especially those who are still coming to church.”
In Uganda, Jackson Mukasa, a 20-year-old gay man was imprisoned last year on suspicion of homosexual acts. He was later released due to lack of evidence. But he says: “I would like the Pope to at least make people know that being LGBT is not a curse…Being a gay in Uganda is a challenge. You expect mob justice, you expect to be killed, you expect to be arrested.”
Frank Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and one of the country’s most well-known gay rights activists, believes that Pope Francis should take a common sense and soft approach that will ultimately lead to greater acceptance.
“If he starts taking about rights, the Ugandans are going to be very defensive. But I would think if the Pope was here and talking about love, compassion and equality for everyone, Ugandans will listen.” Mugisha hopes the Pope will preach that homosexuals should also be “treated like any other children of God.”
Let’s also hold out hope that Pope Francis does the right thing.